A/N: AND THE HUNT BEGINS :3 More fluff in this chapter guys, just as a warning. And trippy fog. Jussayin.
When the bright light of morning fell across my face, my first though was of how incredibly warm I felt. I was used to waking up in the palace, a naturally chilly place, surrounded by furs and crystalline walls. But I found this was more relaxing, more comforting than waking up in my own home. Huh, what did that say about me.
There was a warm, soft movement against my chest, and I opened my eyes to see a shock of blight red and a familiar face. Tamwyn was curled on his side facing me, His face pressed into the dip between my collarbones and his arm wrapped firmly around my waist. Our legs were tangled together in a way that was pretty close to embarrassing, but Tamwyn looked too perfectly content in his dreams to notice. I though about wiggling free for a moment, but then decided against it. The sun had barely risen, and there was no need to get going immediately. The caravan was going nowhere fast, not with what they took. I let my arm drape across his back, resting my chin in his hair. His warmth was radiating in my core, making me feel lethargic and oddly content. I allowed myself a brief respite and curled around him, closing my eyes. He stirred again, pulling me closer and moving his head a little further up. Still half asleep, I ran a hand down his chest and felt for his wound. The realistic part of my mind told me I needed to rebandage it before we got going and that the sun was to high in the sky now to ignore.
"Tamwyn. Tamwyn, wake up." He groaned and stirred, curling in closer.
"Five more minutes."
I shoved him away by the shoulder.
"Ouch... I thought your job was to keep me from dying, not speed up the process."
"You'll live. Now sit up so I can redress that wound."
Movement against my cheek roused me from deep slumber, but I was very comfortable and my mind receded again into the warmth of sleep. A brief touch of movement breezed down my chest, and I felt myself coming up to the surface of consciousness and fought it stubbornly. Something murmured near my ear and I groaned, seeking the gentle warmth again as I curled in on myself.
"Five more minutes," I mumbled, and then I received a jarring jolt to the shoulder and awoke with a start, limbs flailing. I looked around in alarm to find Sivan sitting beside me, wearing an irked expression under warm cheeks. I glowered, rubbing my shoulder.
Ouch...I thought your job was to keep me from dying, not speed up the process," I grumbled, and he stood up with a disaffected sniff.
"You'll live. Now sit up so I can redress that wound."
I obeyed grudgingly, leaning back against a tree as he unwrapped the makeshift bandage, inspecting the wound beneath. After cleaning it he decided I would live and rebandaged the whole thing, going about it with a surprisingly gentle air.
"So what now? They've got a few days head start on us," I said, and he frowned over the fire as he set about cooking us up some rations.
"We'll track them until we've caught up and then pick them off one by one, I'd say," he suggested, and I grinned fiercely.
"Sounds like my kind of plan. Think we can take 'em?"
He snorted. "We're the two best warriors our societies have to offer, I think we can handle it."
I fiddled with a lock of my hair, watching him go about the work with a somewhat distant attitude. "You seem to forget they destroyed my entire village in a single night. We aren't weak, but they cut through us like spiderweb. You think the two of us can do better?"
He shrugged, passing me something to eat. "I think we have to try. Eat something, it'll help you heal faster."
I sipped sulkily at my stew, staring over the hilly distance.
"You think we'll win?"
He sighed, taking his own stew. "I think we have to try."
"Are we there yet?"
"Do you see an army of bloodthirsty Northerners anywhere around here?"
"Then we're not there yet!"
I grumbled as Sivan snapped at me, obviously sick of my questioning. We had been tracking them for three days now, we were nearly out of food and it was raining. My wound was showing improvement, but that was about the only thing going for us.
"Afletra," He suddenly swore, and I nearly ran into him as he stopped abruptly. We were standing at the edge of a massive plain, but nothing was in sight for miles and if we came up on them in this we'd lose all elements of surprise. The flat was surrounded by craggy mountains and foothills, and he sighed and took a step into the field. He froze immediately, and I looked at him questioingly.
"What are you doing?" I asked, and he shushed me with a hand, looking around with startling intensity.
"There's something wrong here," he murmured, and I glanced around and heightened my senses. He was right-the silence was deafening, not a cricket or bird or breath of wind to be heard beside the patter of rain. The brown flat grass suddenly became more menacing, and I wondered briefly if the legends were true.
"Sivan. I think these are the haunted plains," I murmured, and he nodded, retracting the foot he had placed in the grass. "I've heard that to enter them is certain death. Probably just legend, of course, but...I get a bad feeling," I admitted, and he turned back into the forest.
"I suppose we shall wait the storm out and then go. The legends are no reason to waste time going around," He said, and I scowled.
"Why don't we just go now then?" I asked, and he glanced back to the unsettling openness.
"I just...we'll start out with nightfall. The full moon should be plenty of light to walk by, and it's not as though we'd trip on anything," he joked, and I rested a hand on the tree beside me, looking out uncomfortably.
This was a very, very bad idea. I should have known so from the start. The light of the moon was the only thing that kept us from being completely lost in the dark. Shadows twisten in the uncertain light, creatures I couldn't see made soft unsettling noises in the deepest of the shadows. After a few miles of treading through thick marshes and dipping hills that sent shivers down my spine, Tamwyn turned to me.
"I this we should have gone around."
"I could not agree with you more."
Fog had begun to creep up from the dips and bends in the land, thick and white like a low hanging cloud. For a few minutes, it was nothing to worry about. But after a while, the fog started getting heavier, dense and thick to the point where I couldn't see more than a few feet in front of me. I clutched at Tamwyn's arm, worried I'd loose him in the soup. Tam's muscles were tense, like a cobra coiled and ready to strike. We both sensed something was wrong. There was something different about the air, something I couldn't put a finger on...
Suddenly, mad cackling laughter erupted from seemingly nowhere and everywhere at once. We both jumped, looking around for the source of the sound. Our eyes found nothing.
A shadow jumped in the corner of my vision, but when I turned whatever it was had vanished. Tamwyn's head snapped to the right, like he'd seen something similar.
"What the hell was that?!" I hissed, eyes peeled and heart beating faster than running hoofbeats.
"I don't know, but it it gets within three yards of me I swear I'll... there!"
He hurled a fire burst at something I didn't see, but the fire did nothing to dispel the sickening fog the clung around our chests and in out lungs. Another shadow popped into my vision, blurring in the dim light through the milky white, and I shot a spike of ice straight for it. My spike when through thin air, the creature had vanished. This went of for twelve horrifying minutes. We both circled, back to back, never attacking the same targets, always missing our marks.
Mind working, the next shadow I saw, I didn't attack.
"Tam! Tam do you see that?" I pointed towards the shadow, my shin crawling as it seemed to come closer.
Tamwyn looked over his shoulder at where I was pointing.
"What are you talking about? Theres nothing there!" I sent an ice spike at it, and it vanished again.
"We're not seeing the same things! It can't actually be real!"
"Then why am I still seeing monsters crawl out of the fog at me!"
It hit me like a thunderclap. "Hold your breath! There must be something in the fog!"
Tam did, taking a big inhale and holding it.
I breaded myself for not thinking of it before, and willed all the water in the air to change, first to liquid, then to ice. The fog collapsed into itself, showering to the ground in thousands of tiny ice crystals. The shadows were gone. The moon played bright and full across the land again.
Tamwyn let out the biggest breath I'd ever heard.
"What in flame's name was that?" He asked, getting his breath under control. Bending down, I picked up one of the ice crystals. The light it refracted from the moon was a strange, unnatural orangish color, and smelled oddly sweet.
"It must have been some sort of hallucinogenic."
"Hallucinogenic. Mind warper. Makes you see things that aren't real."
"Well, say that in the first place."
"You're welcome by the way."
We curled on the cold ground closer than we probably should have been, shivering and trying to get some sleep. The hateful terrifying fog had finally evaporated but the haunted plains still held more unnatural and uncomfortable surprises.
"What was that?"
Sivan sat bolt upright beside me, eyes wide in the darkness, and I looked around in alarm. I couldn't see anything in particular around us, so I listened for whatever had spooked the prince. Nothing audible either.
"You okay?" I asked, and he took a deep breath and lay back on the ground. I stared up at the moon for a while, encouraging my internal flame to warm my extremities, and realized that my companion had no such capabilities.
"Are you sure you're okay?" I prodded, and he nodded, curling tighter in on himself. I watched him shudder from the corner of my eye for another five minutes or so before rolling over and wrapping my arms around his waist. He jolted fully awake, struggling automatically.
"W-What are you-" I jabbed him in the ribs to make him stop and he flinched.
"Shut up, I'm cold and you're cold and we generate more body heat this way. Plus I can warm your core, it's getting lower than it should," I informed him, my infrared vision locating the dangerous drop his body temperature was experiencing.
He spluttered for a moment before he seemed to realize I was right, and to feel the warmth coming from my body, and he relaxed minimally.
Soon he had drifted off, and I marveled silently at the way the curve of his spine fit perfectly into each dip of my body, the fact that his hair still smelled like some kind of flower and the cold smoothness of his skin.
I was overcome suddenly with the urge to hold him as tightly as I could and keep him there where I could protect his graceful limbs and boyishly pretty face. Of course I knew he didn't need protecting-least of all from me-but the desire was there all the same.
I nuzzled my face into his sweet hair and slept the rest of the night peacefully and quietly with dreams of Sivan dancing in front of my eyes.